When Thomas Tertius Noble (1867-1953) resigned from his post at York Minster in order to take up an appointment as musical director at St Thomas’s Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, he must have done so with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. This was to be Noble’s most important post in a career which had begun at the Royal College of Music in 1886, where he studied with Parratt and Stanford, and which led to appointments at Trinity College, Cambridge, as assistant to Stanford (1890-2), and at Ely Cathedral (1892-1898) and York Minster (1898-1912) as organist and choirmaster. Shortly before his appointment to St Thomas’s in 1912, the church had been rebuilt with the aim of creating liturgical conditions akin to those of a cathedral, and on arrival in New York Noble was set the daunting task of establishing the musical traditions there. Noble remained at St Thomas’s until 1947, during which time he founded a choir school fashioned after the familiar choral establishments he had left behind in England. The choir still flourishes today, drawing its repertoire from the vast legacy of English Cathedral Music, including several of Noble’s own works. The Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in B minor (Op 6) were first published in 1898 and dedicated to Sir George Martin. Though writing in a simple, syllabic style, Noble shows an expressive approach to word-setting and achieves musical variety through the constant alternation of vocal textures and colours; simple unison passages contrast with those of more complex chordal writing, and long sustained phrases for boys’ voices alternate with those scored for the three lower voices. The organ part plays a purely accompanimental role; it is harmonically supportive, yet shows little rhythmic or melodic independence.
from notes by Sarah Langdon © 1988